So far, so good for injured beaked whale

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Date: Thursday, August 26, 2010
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

A rare Blainville’s beaked whale is continuing to make progress in its recovery at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Hawaiʻi Cetacean Rehabilitation Facility (HCRF) located at the UH Hilo Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center (PACRC) in Keaukaha.

The 1,800 pound, 11-and-a-half-foot female was discovered swimming back and forth in shallow waters off Kihei, Maui on August 16 and brought to the facility. Beaked whales are deep water swimmers that are rarely seen, and less than 20 have been held in captivity. None have survived long enough to be returned to their natural habitat.

“This is the animal’s 11th day of rehabilitation,” said UH Hilo’s HCRF Director and UH Hilo Marine Science Associate Professor Dr. Jason Turner. “We’re fully aware of the challenge we face, but are encouraged by how well she is doing.

“While the animal’s condition has periodically slipped, it has generally remained in stable condition,” he added. “She is able to swim on her own and is being tube-fed a slurry of squid, affectionately known as a ‘squid shake,’ but has yet to accept solid food.”

Veterinarians are still trying to pinpoint the exact nature of the animal’s ailment. The results of initial blood tests pointed to a kidney problem, but her signs appear to have improved. What’s more puzzling is the animal’s elevated glucose levels, which could be a sign of diabetes. However, experts are working with very limited information since the species is so under-studied and they have no baseline health data for comparison.

Full rehabilitation could take months and will require expansion into a nearby larger and deeper facility that will allow the whale to swim at greater depths before returning it to the ocean. UH Hilo’s HCRF is presently trying to raise funds to pay for the expansion, which is expected to cost about $100,000.

At the same time, donations are being sought for other treatment-related needs such as food and pharmaceuticals, as well as medical equipment and supplies. UH Hilo’s HCRF relies heavily on some 220 trained volunteers from the Hawaiʻi Marine Mammal Response Network (HMMRN) and hopes to add to its ranks. A training session will be held on Saturday, September 4, 10-3 p.m., at the facility. Meanwhile, visitations are being hosted daily from 8-5 p.m.

“We really hope the community will come down and see for themselves what is taking place right here in Hilo,” Turner said. “This is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the true wonders of nature and the kind of educational opportunity money can’t buy.”

UH Hilo’s HCRF is one of just three dolphin rehabilitation facilities in the country operated by a university.

To schedule a visit or for more information, call (808) 756-5961.

For donations or to volunteer, email hmmrn@hawaii.edu.


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